In order to help us study the book of Galatians and glean from it the important truths and lessons it has in store, we will be posting articles and Spirit of Prophecy compilations by Brother Davi P. Silva on the topic of the Gospel in Galatians. The articles will be posted throughout the month of June. Below, Brother Silva addresses the importance of this Epistle and what we should hope to find in its study.
The letter Paul wrote to the Galatian believers is one of the most important documents in defense of Justification by Faith. In the letter to the Romans, Paul explained in a very didactical way the process of salvation. In his message to the Galatians, he explains the same fundamental truths, but with another purpose: to correct gross heresies which were creeping in among the believers.
After preaching the gospel in the region of Galatia, Paul and his coworkers organized a prosperous church in that area. The believers were strongly established in the truth, believing in Jesus as the only hope of the sinner.
In the apostle’s absence, some Jews from Jerusalem came to Galatia and other areas teaching that the converted Gentiles couldn’t be saved unless they would be circumcised. Basically, they were teaching that believing in Christ wasn’t enough for salvation: the believers needed to practice some ceremonial precepts in addition to faith in order to be saved.
The apostle couldn’t tolerate such a heresy. Besides that, the false teachers tried to disqualify the authority of Paul, mentioning the fact that the apostle wasn’t like those who had had personal contact with the Savior for so long a time.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul establishes his authority, as one who was taught by the Savior and received his commission directly from Jesus on his way to Damascus.
However, the main subject of the Epistle was the doctrine of Justification by Faith in light of kindred doctrines. Paul declared that if the believers accepted the idea that they could be saved by the works of the law, Jesus had died in vain; and that those who accepted this heresy had fallen from grace.
He makes clear that we are saved solely by grace, and not by any good work. However, he also makes clear that those who accept Christ as their only and sufficient Savior are guided by the Holy Spirit and produce the fruit of the Spirit: true love.
During the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference of 1888, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the letter from Paul to the Galatians was in the center of a fiery debate. Some of the pioneers firmly believed and taught that the law mentioned by the apostle was only the ceremonial law. On the other hand, E. Waggoner taught in that conference that the law in Galatians was the moral law. Addressing the controversy, E. G. White declared that the law mentioned in that epistle was both the moral and ceremonial law, but that the main application was to the moral law.
In drawing upon the heritage of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement ought to understand very well the meaning of this New Testament book. Today, we have very much to learn from the letter to the Galatians written by the inspired apostle Paul.
The importance of the book of Galatians for understanding Paul and the core of his doctrine of justification by faith alone can hardly be overstated, with the result that it has received a long and extensive treatment by God’s people through the centuries. It had a tremendous impact on the Reformers, including Luther, who said, “The Epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. To it I am as it were in wedlock. It is my Catherine.” Boice, commenting on its impact since the Protestant Reformation, says, “not many books have made such a lasting impression on men's minds as the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, nor have many done so much to shape the history of the Western world.”
Ellen White wrote: “Paul had presented to the Galatians the gospel of Christ in its purity. His teachings were in harmony with the Scriptures; and the Holy Spirit had witnessed to his labors. Hence he warned his brethren to listen to nothing that should contradict the truth which they had been taught.”Sketches from the Life of Paul, p. 190.
The Epistle to the Galatians is a powerful Christian treatise designed to declare the truth of salvation by grace alone and the goal of such a salvation; namely, a life of joyous freedom from sin’s tyranny, on the one hand, and increasing obedience to Christ on the other. It is surely, as one author has called it, “The Charter of Christian Liberty.”
May the Lord help us to learn His wonderful truth, and unlearn wrong ideas which are in opposition to a “Thus says the Lord”.
Davi P Silva